Whenever I walk into an organization that is struggling to move forward, I usually ask different people what the vision is. Most of the time in those organizations, few can tell me what it is. The few that can tell me, have no idea how what they do contributes to the vision. I then get together with the leaders in a room and have them close their eyes. I then ask them to point to the north. When they open their eyes, they see that everyone is pointing in different directions, and at least one is pointing up. I then open the compass app on my phone, and show them where north is. I have them close their eyes again and ask them to point to the north. This time, usually all but one are pointing in the direction I showed them. I then explain how vision gives people direction, and without it they do their own thing pulling the organization in different directions.
As individuals, we’re not that much different. Each of us need direction for our life or we go nowhere feeling unfulfilled. Without a cause or a purpose, we lack direction. If I asked you what your purpose on this earth was, could you answer? If not, you’ve probably tried several jobs, been in and out of relationships and searched for purpose in some very different ways. You’re not alone if you feel that way. “The Purpose Driven Life” has sold over 50 million copies to date because it speaks to that very question all of us have: “What on earth am I here for?” Believe it or not, you were created with a purpose and you can know it. Each one of us have a unique set of talents and giftings that when combined give you the unique ability to do what God made you to do.
Proverbs 29:18 says, “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful” (NLT). God offers divine guidance and direction. One way to seek it is in prayer. Another way is through His Word, the Bible (the Law). Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” God’s Word guides us and lights up the right path for us, but only when we put it in us. Abraham had a land to find, David had a giant to fight and Nehemiah had a wall to build. There is something God made you to do as well. It may not be as grand as some of the people I just mentioned, but it is grand to the ones you will impact. I’m praying for you today to find your purpose and to start moving in that direction
A friend of mine recently called me to invite my wife and I to go somewhere with him. I said, “Sure! We’d love to.” He paused for a moment, then nervously asked, “Are you going to check with your wife first to make sure she doesn’t have any plans for y’all?” It was a good question with much wisdom behind it. I was about to make plans without checking with her first, much like many of us make life changing plans without asking God.
A friend of mine recently asked on Facebook, “Where in Scripture does God, or any of His prophets, tell us to follow our dreams?” Many people attempted to put verses from the Bible in there, but none could give one. His point was that we’ve become people who teach our kids to follow their dreams and to become anything they want, but we haven’t taught them to ask God what plans and dreams He has for their life.
There’s a saying that’s been changed through the ages, but the current one says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Too many times, we are making plans and telling God our plans without consulting Him first. Proverbs 16:1 says, “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word” (MSG). So many of my plans in life have changed because God’s plan overruled my plan. Thank God too because His plan is much better.
If the plans you’ve made for your life are falling through, don’t despair. Pray and seek God for what His plans are for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord” (NLT). God knows the plans He has for each one of us. It’s time we stopped what we were doing and asked for His plans. Until then, our plans will continue to fail. Trust me. I’ve been there and have had to start over a few times. It’s better when we ask for His plans. They’re more elaborate than ours.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
In high school I had a coach that was tough. He would spend an hour and a half of a two hour practice conditioning our team. We would run laps outside and sprints inside. When we would beg for water, he’d say, “You can’t stop a game to get water.” After we would practice our plays for about 30 minutes, we’d finish practice with more running. Before you left, you had to make 100 free throws. He would tell us, “We may not be the best team on the floor, but we will be the best conditioned team.” I can tell you he was right. We ran the other teams out of the gym because they would get tired. When we held the state championship trophy, it was all worth it.
God, like that coach, is always looking ahead in our lives, seeing what we can’t see. He knows what it will take to condition us now so that we will endure the things that are coming. Preparing and conditioning are never easy, nor are they fun, but they build in us the endurance to push through where others fail. They get us in shape spiritually for the spiritual battles that we will face. At times during conditioning we can feel like giving up or want to start questioning why we aren’t spending more time practicing the things God is going to use us for. I’ve learned that if the enemy succeeds in destroying our witness, he can keep us from giving the message. We must be able to endure the pressure first.
I love the way The Passion Translation words Psalm 23:4. It says, “Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have!” God’s path rarely goes where we think it should. Many times it goes into dark places of testing and conditioning because God wants to build your trust in Him before the enemy attacks. What you learn in the valley will sustain you in the battle. Preparation and conditioning are necessary to make you more than a conqueror. The greater God’s plan is for your life, the greater your preparation and conditioning will be.
It’s easy to believe that God is working things in your favor when things in your life are going right. When things aren’t going according to your plan, it becomes more difficult to believe that. We often see problems and road blocks in our lives as hindrances to God’s plan, but I believe God uses all of them to grow us and to put us on the right path so His plan for our life can be accomplished. God’s plan for our lives rarely takes the path of least resistance.
In the hardest times of my life, I couldn’t see God’s hand working. I was so focused on the pain and the problems that I questioned if God even knew what was going on. I cried out constantly for Him to make it all go away, but He knew what He was doing. He created a raw dependence on Him which led to a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with Him. He understands that hard times bring us closer to Him and make us stronger. In fact, some of His greatest work in our lives happen when we see His hand the least.
Romana 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (NLT). He doesn’t just cause some things to work together. He causes everything in our lives to work together for our good. There is a purpose in problems. There is hope in uncertainty. God is behind the scenes working on your behalf even when we’re blinded by our situation. His plan for our lives will come to pass, and it will be to our benefit. We just have to trust even when we can’t see what He’s doing.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
A few years ago, my in-laws were on their way to Mexico to visit family. A few hours or so after leaving home, their check engine light came on. They stopped to get it checked out. A sensor had gone out and needed to be replaced. As soon as the repair was finished, they got on the road. An hour later, the check engine light came on again. They stopped to have the same problem repaired. When they arrived at the border, the light came on again so they had it checked out. The mechanic said the same sensor had gone out a third time. They were frustrated, but they replaced it again so they could continue.
An hour or so after they crossed the border into Mexico, the light came on again. Six times they had this sensor replaced within several hours. When it came on again, they decided to pull over and talk about their options. If they kept going and the truck broke down, the chances were high that they would be far from help without cell service. They wanted to deliver goods to their family who needed them and to visit family like they had planned, but they turned the truck around. As soon as they did, the light went off and never came back on.
When they arrived back at the border, they decided to get some food at the usual places. While there, my mother in law remembered she had gone to the doctor several months prior and never heard back. After eating, they went to the doctor, and he told her he had been trying to get ahold of her, but couldn’t. He was glad she came in because her test results showed she had cancer. She needed immediate surgery to remove it, which they did that day. They also needed a blood relative there with her in case of complications. Her sister happened to go with them on that trip. God changed their plans and they had the wherewithal to accept it.
Proverbs 16:1 says, “We may make our plans, but God has the last word” (GNT). Many of us are so fixated on our plans that we fail to hear what God is trying to tell us. We press on despite his attempts to turn us around. In some cases, it’s for our benefit, and other times, it’s for someone else. We need to pay attention to what God is trying to say to us throughout our days. It’s ok to make plans and to want to accomplish them, but not at the expense of ignoring what God is trying to get us to do. We need to give Him the right to have the last word in our lives.
Several years ago, we experienced a crash in the housing market. It was the perfect storm or rising interest rates, a sluggish economy, and low cost construction. I remember my friend’s neighborhood most vividly. As you drove through it, there were many incomplete houses in varying stages of construction scattered throughout. For years they sat there incomplete. They were a constant reminder of the recession we were in.
As I drive through, I couldn’t help but think how each of those houses represented someone’s broken dream and unfulfilled plan. People had gone through the process of buying a lot, designing a house, choosing elevations, selecting tile, picking out paint colors, and imagining what it was going to be like. Now it sat there incomplete with no hope of fulfilling its purpose. Where others saw incomplete houses, I saw unfulfilled dreams.
I’ve always imagined that you and I were a lot like houses under construction. God has a great blueprint for each one of us that He’s designed specifically based on who He created us to be. Unfortunately, many of us feel incomplete and that God has stopped working on us or in us. The truth is that God is always at work in our lives trying to help us fulfill our calling. No matter what mistakes we make, God doesn’t walk away from the construction site or leave a house unfinished.
Philippians 2:-13 says, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (NLT). God has not given up on what He started in your life. He hadn’t walked away from you, leaving you like an abandoned construction site. He is still working in you, helping you and putting the desire in you to want to fulfill your purpose. You are still under construction and God still has an amazing blueprint for your life. He will complete what He started in you.
Inadequate. That’s how I felt going on my first survival camp out. I was allowed to bring anything I could fit into a small bandaid box to survive with over a weekend. I didn’t know where I was going or what I would have access to. But once I arrived, I scouted a pond and was able to use fishing wire and a hook I had packed to catch fish. The knife inside helped me to clean it. The foil square I put in there made a great skillet to cook the fish with. It turns out that everything I needed to survive was already with me.
Inadequate. That’s how so many of us feel when it comes to being a “good” Christian. We don’t know where we are going or what we’ll have access to in the future. We often feel unqualified and unequipped to do what we feel God has called us to. We question whether we have what it takes to live out our faith. Our feelings of inadequacy hold us back in our faith, our calling, and our life. The truth is that God has given each of us all we need in order to do exceedingly above and beyond what we think.
I Corinthians 1:7 says, “Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NLT). You and I have been given EVERY spiritual gift we need. God knows what plans He has for you and has already given you those gifts. It’s up to us to unpack them from our bandaid box, develop them, and use them the way they were intended. As you become more mature in your faith, your ability to effectively use the gifts God has given you will increase.
You may not see your giftings right now, but they’re there. If you’ve never taken a spiritual gifts test, I encourage you to look one up online or ask your pastor about one they trust. I Corinthians 12:7 says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” That means that you are gifted and God wants to use those gifts to help someone else in their faith. The word “inadequate” doesn’t fit any of us so quit believing it and applying it to your life. “Equipped” is a better word for who you are.